A high-pitched scream punctuated the dim atmosphere.
What? - Charles' thoughts were wrenched from their introspection, and snapped back to the present.
It had been a woman's voice, frightened, distressed, bordering on the hysterical. The sound of it had immediately sent Charles running in its direction. It did strike him that he was hardly qualified to deal with any emergency, as this would seem to be the case. He should have tried to contact some other doctor on the night shift. But there was a sense of urgency that he felt, and he did not attempt to contact anyone.
He just ran.
The hospital's grounds covered a large expanse of land. He would have found it rather difficult to pinpoint the scream's origin, were it not for the second, then third, then fourth, scream that sounded over and over again.
There... he thought, as he continued to run. A figure slowly took shape, gradually changing from an unclear, dark shadow, to that of a young woman's. She was sitting on the ground, her weight thrown backwards, as if staggered and fallen. As Charles drew closer, he could see the horror and fear on her face as she continued to scream.
He slowed, drew closer to her. But she did not notice him. Her face was turned away, her eyes wide and fixated on some illusion only she herself could see. Her thin hands pawed at the sand, desperately trying to back away from, to escape some demon of her creation. The pale hospital gown she wore was filthy and torn in several places.
She would not stop screaming.
" Keep away from me! Keep away from me! Go away!" The tears rolled down her pale cheeks, her shrieking interrupted only by her sobs.
Charles knelt beside her. He slowly raised his hand to touch her. " Do not be frightened. I will help you."
She turned her large, dilated eyes upon him, and her features twisted in panic as she shrank away. " No... keep away from me... don't hurt me... Keep away from me!" She scrambled to escape him.
He knew that she had no reason to fear him. But he realised that it was not his face that she saw, nor his voice that she heard. To her, his face was that of another man, another demon, and his voice not his own, but that of the devil's. Automatically, he began to probe her mind, sensing the trauma and fear locked within.
Though he only skimmed the surface of her thoughts, he could see, all too clearly, the nightmare she was living through at that moment. But her nightmare had become a reality, with the images of bloodshed and destruction that overflowed from her mind's eye.